All good things must come to an end — and that goes for even the most iconic of landmarks. A large part of the Jackson Magnolia tree, the oldest on White House grounds, is scheduled to be cut down later this week due to its decaying state, CNN reports.
It has stood on the west side of the White House since the 1800s when President Andrew Jackson had a sprout from his wife’s favorite magnolia on their Tennessee farm brought over. Though the exact date it was planted is unclear — 1835 according to TIME, and somewhere between 1829 and 1837 according to Newsweek — Jackson did so to honor his wife who died shortly after the 1828 election. It grew into the sprawling giant that has since been the backdrop of annual ceremonies and White House events.
The historic tree was featured on the back of the $20 bill from 1928 to 1998, and seedlings have been given as gifts over the years. Former first lady Michelle Obama gave the Department of Agriculture one to plant in its community garden in 2009, and in 2016, one was donated to the people of Cuba to, as Michelle stated, “feel the hope and possibility that they symbolize, as together, we seek to build a new relationship between our peoples and a new world for our children.”
Documents from the U.S. National Arboretum‘s inspection of the magnolia stated that the 200-year-old tree could no longer be preserved and that “the overall architecture and structure of the tree is greatly compromised.” According to the documents, it is “completely dependent on the artificial support,” which was installed in 1981, and “without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago.”
“Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains,” they continued, also stating that further cabling isn’t an option because the lower trunk is “almost non-existent … and the upper portion lacks sound wood for cabling. This half of the tree is considered a hazard.”
Because of its deterioration, Melania Trump made the executive decision to have the tree removed while the presidential family is away celebrating the holidays at their Mar-a-Lago estate.
“Mrs. Trump personally reviewed the reports from the U.S. National Arboretum and spoke at length with her staff about exploring every option before making the decision to remove a portion of the magnolia tree,” Melania’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN. “After reviewing the reports, she trusted that every effort had been made to preserve the historic tree and was concerned about the safety of visitors and members of the press, who are often standing right in front of the tree during Marine One lifts.”
The documents from the U.S. National Arboretum further stated that “the high winds” resulting from these lifts, “complicates the future of the limb.”
In the wake of the Jackson Magnolia’s removal, the White House was seemingly prepared. For months, groundskeepers cared for offshoots of the tree, which are now about eight to 10 feet tall. Another Jackson Magnolia will be planted in its place from these offshoots, and Melania has also requested that the original wood is preserved.
So, though all good things must come to an end, maybe this beloved magnolia is an exception to the rule.